Spot spraying pays dividends

The West Australian

Investing in spot-spraying technology has delivered big benefits for Katanning farmer Simon Kerin.

Mr Kerin farms with brother Matt and father Peter, cropping 3200ha at Katanning, and also runs a spray contracting business, Kalbun Spraying Services.

Harvest has begun on this year's program of canola, wheat, barley, lupins and oats for oaten export hay.

It was during last season's harvest when Mr Kerin noticed a lot of summer weeds and knew they would be set for some intensive summer spraying.

The family decided to invest in spot-spraying technology to take a more targeted approach, increase efficiency and reduce chemical usage, both on their own farm and in their contracting business.

"I hadn't really seen a WeedSeeker in action before, but we had a lot of weeds in crops last harvest and knew we had to do a lot of summer spraying, so we decided to have a look," Mr Kerin said.

"There aren't any other WeedSeekers in close proximity, so we thought there was an opportunity there."

In January last year, the Kerin family received their 36m Quick Disconnect WeedSeeker Kit through Dan Tracey at McIntosh and Son, Katanning, and attached it to their existing self-propelled sprayer.

The WeedSeeker selective spot-spray system works by emitting a dual-frequency light band, with the reflected light analysed by a sensor looking for the distinct light signature of chlorophyll in weeds.

If a weed is present, a signal is sent to a solenoid that directs a burst directly on to the weed.

Sensors sample the ground at 79,000 times a second.

The technology offers up to 90 per cent savings in herbicides and operates on suspended booms rather than ground-following booms, avoiding structural concerns and problems with maintaining consistent spraying heights.

Mr Kerin said as they did not receive their WeedSeeker until late in the season last year, there were limited opportunities for contract spraying, but what they did complete had been impressive.

"We did about 1000ha through contract and 2300ha on our property," he said.

"We're targeting melons, fleabane, radish and volunteer crops - anything looking to drag the moisture out, really.

"We only sprayed 19 per cent of our 2300ha using the WeedSeeker. If we had done a blanket spray on that 2300ha, it would have cost us about $23,000 more in chemicals."

_Mr Kerin calculates paying off the investment in three to five years, depending on contract spraying. _

He said they had also seen a big increase in efficiency when contract spraying, as they covered more ground from one tank.

He said overall, they had also seen a better result with weed knockdown.

For more information, contact local dealers or visit www.mcintosh

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